Saturday, December 19, 2009
Inspired partly by Alan Speinwall, I finally have an excuse to list my favorite holiday episodes of the 2000s. What better way to ring in the final holiday season of the decade?
Before we begin, I desperately wish we could have beheld the majesty of the Christmas episode from these six series:
1. Battlestar Galactica - Of course, they'd call it the Festival of Saturn or somesuch, but the rituals would shockingly parallel our own: Chief Tyrol would dress in red and let Hera, Nicky, and the other children ask him for presents, President Roslin would do her best Jackie O and give the fleet a tour of Colonial One decorated all fancy, and Kara would find a way to make it about her own existential despair, before a change of heart prompted by the miraculous appearance of Angel Six. And presumably Saul MF Tigh would clomp around the ship in a drunken stupor, growling at passing cadets and forcing the naughty children to ferment some more gods-damn malt liquor fer christ's sake!
2. Firefly - Totally not kidding. I want to see what Zoe and Wash get each other, I want to see Kaylee decorate the ship as best she can, and, most of all, I want to see Jayne put on that hat one last time.
3. Freaks and Geeks - How did we miss this? Can I blame NBC's schedule interference, or did Paul Feig and company just ignore the holidays entirely? Because, given the time period, Freaks and Geeks could have had a very distinct Christmas on top of a weird give-and-take relationship with A Christmas Story, which would premiere three years later.
4. Friday Night Lights - I hate that their seasons cover one semester, which ends in November or early December at the latest. You just know Friday Night Lights would have the perfect combination of levity and heart to rock a holiday episode.
5. Glee - They probably have several more shots at this, so I'm not worried. But frankly, I need a Rachel cover of "Santa Baby," Artie's take on "Let it Snow," and the entire cast's version of "The Christmas Song."
6. Sons & Daughters - If only they made it to December, Fred Goss' improv troupe would have rocked the shit out of Christmas. It would be hilarious and heartwarming and juvenile and real, you'd laugh and cry, and we'd all know the glory that was the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Sons & Daughters.
That said, here are six Christmas episodes that did make it to air but didn't make my top 10.
"Christmas Special" - 30 Rock. Jack Donaghy ran over his mother and then waited 8 minutes before doing anything!
"Chuck vs. Santa Claus" - Chuck. I recall loving this one, especially with that beautifully played moment where it slowly dawns on Chuck that Sarah is perfectly capable of killing. It'd probably make the top ten if I had seen it since it aired.
"In God We Trust" - Arrested Development. Perhaps the only Christmas episode to feature the line, "There is no God!"
"Ludachristmas" - 30 Rock. In which the writers gamble on how many instances of "Lemon party" they can get away with.
"Merry Mayhem" - Dawson's Creek. Courtesy of one fantastic Busy Philipps, the greatest meltdown in the history of teen dramas?
"My Best Moment" - Scrubs. Heart on its sleeve, in typical Scrubs fashion, but I have such a soft spot for it. I think it's the "Joy to the World" accompanying the happy ending.
But there are ten better, so without further ado, I present to you the
Top 10 Christmas Episodes of the 2000s:
10. "Final Grades" - The Wire
This is the only time The Wire will come in so low. I couldn't exclude it, probably the best episode of anything to air on television ever, but it's not exactly happy. Still, gotta love the ironic Christmas paraphernalia everywhere from Prez's classroom to Landsman's tie.
10. "Christmas Specials" - The Office (UK)
I figure a tie for tenth isn't that bad in the grand scheme. Besides, it's Christmas. But like "Final Grades," this is an excellent episode, one of the best of the decade, but it's pretty tangentially related to Christmas. Yes, there's a holiday office party where Tim and Dawn finally make it official, but most of the pleasures have little to do with the holiday season.
9. "Comparative Religion" - Community
One, because of the ever hilarious reactions to Jeff saying he's agnostic. It tickles me when people shout "boo" at each other anyway, but in reaction to something so personal it's even better. Throw in Shirley's passive-aggressive interactions with the rest, notably hiding Annie's dreidel in the back, and Britta's "Come on, I'm being punked, right?" and it all adds up to the best Christmas comedy episode of the year.
8. "A Benihana Christmas" - The Office
Michael marking which Asian he's on a quasi-date with is one of the better moments of obliviousness, especially since it resolves comfortably as the Benihana waitresses leave before Michael has a chance to really embarrass himself.
7. "The Best Chrismukkah Ever" - The OC
The first and best Chrismukkah, revolving not around Caleb's affair or Johnny's bar mitzvah (WTF, Season 3?!) or an alternate universe (that, truth be told, is much awesomer than it sounds) but rather Marisa's drunken kleptomania, Seth's two equally cool lovers, and a series of so-called Chrismukkah miracles. Remember Jimmy, before he was inanely addicted to self-destruction? Remember Julie Cooper before she was softened by trailer life? Remember Sandy and Kirsten as a functional relationship and parental unit? It wasn't perfect, but it's hard to top "The Best Chrismukkah Ever."
6. "The Constant" - Lost
Not very Christmasy, but just wait until the climax: Desmond and Penny, cosmically separated by space and time, finally connecting over telephone on the most moving and heartbreaking Christmas Eve this side of 1977.
5. "Shut the Door. Have a Seat" - Mad Men
Not explicitly Christmasy, but there's a lit tree in everyone's home and enough joy to put the North Pole out of business. Unlike those episodes of The Wire and The Office 1.0, Mad Men's Christmas episode is filled with the holiday spirit. And the best part: they spared us the inevitably depressing Draper household on Christmas morning.
4. "An Echolls Family Christmas" - Veronica Mars
Because nothing says Christmas like exposing hypocrisy. Actually, like the Mad Men episode, the center of "An Echolls Family Christmas" is a caper, this one about a poker game gone awry, one of the more fun mysteries (especially relative to the murder of Lilly Kane, Amelia DeLongpre's abduction, the serial rapes on campus, and countless other mysteries). Then everyone converges on the Echolls manor for a party: Logan and Duncan reconcile, Veronica confronts Jake Kane about Clarence (!) Wiedman, and carolers score the stabbing of slimy Aaron Echolls as Keith runs to stop it.
3. "Afternoon Delight" - Arrested Development
Sure, sure, the guy in the $7,000 pants is gonna explain his choices to someone who doesn't make that in a year! Come on!
2. "How Lily Stole Christmas" - How I Met Your Mother
Give it time, and this may become my favorite Christmas episode. There's so much to love here, anchored by the unflinching reality of the grinch (okay, a little flinching) situation. We get Marshall's love for the decorations, Ted's sister's hilarious family, and Robin nursing Barney back to health, and it wraps up sweetly without being schmaltzy.
1. "Christmas Party" - The Office
Season 2 was so unexpectedly wonderful, and this is one of the many episodes that found moments for everyone. Angela's day gets worse as Phyllis' gets better, Michael's crush on Ryan threatens to turn the holiday into a disaster, Kevin gets the foot-bath he bought for himself, Meredith flashes Michael, and, naturally, Jim and Pam bond over his super-romantic gift that almost ended up being Dwight's sinus reliever.
Your turn! In the holiday spirit, I ask what are your favorite Christmas episodes? Have any favorites from before 2000?